Species to Look Out For
About the Park
Santa Cruz, Ca – State Beach
Science Spotlight: Wintering Monarch Butterflies
Just like birds, there is one butterfly that make an annual migration to warmer temperatures. Each year, the monarch butterfly makes its way south to escape freezing temperatures.
Monarchs use environmental cues such as shortened days and colder temperatures to signal that the migration is ready to begin. Two populations of monarch butterflies migrate: one population east of the Rocky Mountains, and one to the west. The eastern population travels all the way down to Central Mexico, with some individuals traveling as far as 3,000 miles.
The western population has an overwintering site right in Santa Cruz at Lighthouse Field State Beach. There, in down the path in an unassuming field, hundreds of monarchs congregate together to stay warm.
Yet this amazing phenomenon faces a sad reality: monarchs have faced declines over the past 20 years, and 2018 marked the lowest count in 5 years for the California population. Factors such as loss of flowers, degradation of stopover sites along their migration, and the loss of overwintering habitat in Mexico contribute to their decline. For more information on the monarch butterfly migration and their decline, check out our article.
Aside from being an incredible beacon for California natural history, the state beach is home to California’s first surfing museum in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse.
Visit the Park
Before visiting, please note that the monarch butterflies are only present from mid-October to mid-February.
During your visit, we recommend checking out the monarch butterflies in the grove of trees out in the field. We also recommend stopping by the lighthouse and surfing museum across the street from the parking lot, as well as scenic views of surfers catching waves off the coast.
Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit: